NIH Director: We Never Approved Support for Gain of Function on Coronavirus, ‘Can’t Absolutely Prevent’ Someone Who Wants to Deceive

On Friday’s broadcast of the Fox News Channel’s “Special Report,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins stated that the NIH did not approve “any grant that would have supported gain of function research on dangerous coronaviruses to see if they could be more transmissible or lethal for individuals in the human species.” Collins did say that the Wuhan Institute of Virology could have done that kind of research with other funding sources, but not grants approved by the NIH. Collins also said that the agency “can’t absolutely prevent somebody who has an intention of deceiving us about how they use the funds.”

Collins said, “It was appropriate from the SARS episode and the MERS episode for us to worry about future coronavirus epidemics. And so, as the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, we were interested in knowing more about what those viruses were that were lurking in bats in Chinese caves, and so there has been some grant support for that effort. But, let me be very clear, we never approved any grant that would have supported gain of function research on dangerous coronaviruses to see if they could be more transmissible or lethal for individuals in the human species. That was not something that we would have done. Now, I can’t tell you what the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have done with other kinds of sources of support. But we never approved that kind of research and that’s something Sen. Paul might want to be a little more clear about.”

He added, “We give a grant with certain criteria of what the work is to be for. We assume that our grantees are going to pay attention to that. They write us progress reports to tell us about that. We can’t absolutely prevent somebody who has an intention of deceiving us about how they use the funds. But I can categorically tell you that nothing that we approved would have included this kind of gain of function research on SARS-CoV-2.”

Collins also stated, “I am not convinced we know the origins. I think most likely it was a natural event where the virus spilled over from bats into humans by some transmission that we haven’t fully understood.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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